Civil Sidewalks, Lewis Lapham, and the struggle for the soul of cities


Cities often get vilified as the cauldrons of all that’s wrong in the world – greed, vice, pollution, and all manner of social ills – but they are also the incubators of ideas that are humankind’s last best shot at solving the social and environmental problems that threaten our long-term stability and prosperity. So ruminating on the indispensable role of cities, as Lapham’s Quarterly does with its fall issue, is more than just an academic exercise or interesting read.

“The Census Bureau counts 232,581,397 Americans, 82.6 percent of the population, living in the nation’s cities, but if our moralists and intelligence services are to be believed, they do so at no small risk to the safety of their persons and the security of their souls,” editor Lewis Lapham, who ran the venerable Harper’s Magazine before stepping down to start LQ, writes in the opening essay of an issue entitled simply “The City.”

Lapham goes on to note the contradiction of how rural areas and suburbs get celebrated as somehow housing the more noble values of the common folk, raising the questions, “If the city is the sewer of vice and a slough of despond, why do so many people choose to live there? On what toxic landfill does the city stand as the embodiment of its ennobling cognate, civilization?”

In an interview with the Bay Guardian, Lapham puts the increasingly important role of cities even more succinctly: “The future is urban.” As the population grows and natural resources become more scarce – and as sea levels rise – the population of cities will swell and the imperative of solving our long neglected problems will grow. And where else but the cities will new ideas find their laboratories?

But in San Francisco and other big cities, many still struggle with what it means to be a city, with all the tolerance for messy urban realities that entails. Witness Prop. L on SF's fall ballot, which actually seeks to outlaw the simple act of sitting on a sidewalk, or as its proponents call it (in an ironic testament to their desire for order above all things), the Civil Sidewalks Law.

Lapham told me this fear of the great unwashed masses (“The rich are afraid of the poor”), an emotion that has fueled the growth of the suburbs and the massive waste of resources that entailed, has hindered the ability and willingness of city leaders to advocate for common values and define the lead role that cities should be playing in this troubled country.

“We don’t have an idea of the city as a great, good place, and we have to start with that,” Lapham told us. “We have to decide what is a city, what work does it do, what is the value, and how do we promote that value.”

This issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is a good place to start that debate. As always, the journal includes the writings of great thinkers throughout time, from Thucydides writing about Athens in 430 BC to Frederick Kaufman writing about New York City in 2008. Celebrated urbanist Jane Jacobs does a great job of capturing the allure of cities – that special something that seems to escape the fearful promoters of Civil Sidewalks – in an essay she wrote about NYC in 1961.

“Reformers have long observed city people loitering on busy corners, hanging around in candy stores and bars and drinking soda pop on stoops, and having passed a judgment, the gist of which is, ‘This is deplorable! If these people had decent homes and a more private or bosky outdoor place, they wouldn’t be on the street!’ This judgment represents a profound misunderstanding of cities. It makes no more sense than to drop in at a testimonial banquet in a hotel and conclude that if these people had wives who could cook, they would give their parties at home,” she writes. “The point of both the testimonial banquet and the social life of city sidewalks is precisely that they are public. They bring people together who do not know each other in an intimate, private social fashion – and in most cases do not care to know each other in that fashion. Nobody can keep an open house in a great city. Nobody wants to. And yet if interesting, useful, and significant contacts among people are confined to acquaintances suitable for private life, the city becomes stultified.”

Indeed, that was the observation that journalist H.L Mencken wrote about many East Coast as he penned an essay in 1920 celebrating San Francisco as “an American city that somehow managed to hold itself above pollution by the national philistinism and craze for standardization, the appalling progress of 100 percent Americanism, the sordid and pathetic dream of unimaginative, timorous, and inferior men.”

Mencken says he can't quite put a finger on what makes San Francisco so special, touching on our international influences and the fortitude developed by braving fog, steep hills, and messy urban realities, which he says have given us a unique appreciation for life. “The San Franciscans have learned how to bear it. They are stupendously alive while they are in motion, but they knock off betimes. The town is rich in loafing places: restaurants, theaters, parks. No one seems to work very hard. The desperate, consuming industry of the East is quite unknown. One could not imagine a sweatshop in the town. Puffs of Oriental air come with the fog. There is nothing European about the way life is lived; the color is all Asiatic.”

A decidedly different portrait of San Francisco comes in the journal's only other entry on this city, written in 1849 by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who helped establish an important military base in a city that had only recently changed its name from Yerba Buena and which was about the explode with the discovery of gold in the Sierras.

“All the town lay along Montgomery Street, from Sacramento to Jackson, and about the plaza. Gambling was the chief occupation of the people. While they were waiting for the cessation of the rainy season, and the beginning of spring, all sorts of house were being put up, but of the most flimsy kind, and all were stores, restaurants, or gambling saloons,” wrote the military man, who didn't much care for the city.

Yet for those who appreciate the role of cities as generators of culture and incubators of ideas, there's no question that our future is urban, although even Lapham has his doubts that the great solutions will come from the cities, preferring to see the Internet and its virtual communities as usurping from cities the role of intellectual hubs.

“The intellectual engine of the Bay Area is centered in the Silicon Valley world rather than on Montgomery Street in San Francisco,” he told us, noting how little the financial firms that dominate downtown San Francisco or Wall Street in his home city of New York have to do with addressing the real problems the world faces.

He's right, of course, but that's also why the struggles for the soul of cities are so important and consequential, and why the the Bay Guardian has spilled so much ink fighting downtown over our 44-year history. Because to give in to the bankers and Civil Sidewalks crowd is to give up on the city.

It's not a new struggle, as Friedrich Engels wrote about London in 1844: “Everywhere one finds on the one hand the most barbarous indifference and selfish egotism and on the other the most distressing scenes of misery and poverty. Signs of social conflict are to be found everywhere. Everyone turns his house into a fortress to defend himself – under the protection of the law – form the depredations of his neighbors. Class warfare is so open and shameless that is has to be seen to be believed. The observer of such as appalling state of affairs must shudder at the consequences of such feverish activity and can only marvel that so crazy a social and economic structure should survive at all.”

Four years later, Engels wrote “The Communist Manifesto” with Karl Marx, diagnosing the problems of capitalism and laying out solutions that came awfully close to taking root around the world before they were defeated by Western military and economic powers. Yet the problems persist to this day, manifested most visibly in cities around the world.

Lapham does admit that cities will be the laboratories and incubators of the ideas that are developed. Given the political dysfunction on the state and federal levels, he also agrees with the contention of Guardian Executive Editor Tim Redmond that the age of he Nation-State as the preeminent political authority is passing, and that its likely replacement is the City-State.

“To make democracy work, it needs to be relatively small,” Lapham said, agreeing that localism is the model that is being widely discussed as the answer to many of our political, environmental, and economic problems. And that all comes back to the cities, provided we can seize the opportunity to define ourselves, or as Lapham said, “One of the things we're missing is the idea of a glorious future of some kind.”


>>>But in San Francisco and other big cities, many still struggle with what it means to be a city, with all the tolerance for messy urban realities that entails. Witness Prop. L on SF's fall ballot, which actually seeks to outlaw the simple act of sitting on a sidewalk, or as its proponents call it (in an ironic testament to their desire for order above all things), the Civil Sidewalks Law.<<<..............And some groups have such excessive enthusiasm and intense devotion for such a revolting law that they invite only the supporters of such a revolting law to their organization's meeting to speak to their members and urge their members to support it. I am talking about the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro. They invited the "Civil Sidewalks" Coalition group to speak to the MUMC at their June 2010 meeting. According to MUMC's newletter, the opponents of sit-lie were not invited to speak (there is no mention of opponents) to the merchants and the merchants present at that meeting voted to support Prop L. I wrote about this on another thread, but I feel that as many people as possible should know about these morally corrupt and sleazy tactics used by the supporters of sit-lie. I do not know which merchants attended that meeting, whether it was the full membership or not. I also do not know if anyone voted against it. But I do know that MUMC urged their members to support sit-lie, according to their newsletter. Wherever and whenever one sees a "We Support Civil Sidewalks" sign in the window of a business, BOYCOTT the business. Don't give them your business. Let them go out of business. I've asked this before....Where does the City plan to put the homeless?... which is what this is about despite the repeated lies from the "Civil Sidewalks" Coalition and the MUMC. Expect more homeless all around the nation....

US sees 95,000 jobs lost in September
According to the Labor Department figures, the fall was almost double August's 54,000 job loss number.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 08, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

Take a first step for solidarity. Before boycotting, go in to those merchants you frequent who have the 'Civil Sidewalks' sign. Reach out and explain honestly that you won't in good conscience be able to shop at their store if they retain the sign, and get into a respectful dialogue with them about the law.

By doing this, I have already gotten four small businesses in my neighborhood to take down their Yes on L signs.

Reach out first. You might be surprised.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 08, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

I was in the Haight shopping the other day, and I walked into the Army Surplus store. I walked right out when I saw their putrid "civil" sidewalks sign. What I should have done instead was talk to them about it. Getting them to take their sign down would be more valuable than having them lose one person's business.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 11:41 am

Idiots. You damn well KNOW what people are tired of in this city. You KNOW that it's the stupid brain dead thugs/dealers that we are all tired of that has made this Sit/Lie ordinance necessary.

Stop whining about "liberty" and "freedom". This is not the issue and you KNOW it.

We are tired to fuckind death of dealer/thug punks on our streets. YOU know that it is the case and yet YOU decry our efforts to control and remove it. Know what? We don't fucking care if you like it or not. It's going to happen and you will get with the program or get out of the way.

Know what else it new? WE, business owners, and responsible citizens, will no longer sit here and be told we have to roll over for thugs, vagrants, dealers, and other losers. We're tired of it and we're going to make it END.

Take your fucking guitar and go to a hemp festival. We're tired of paying your way and cleaning up after your mess.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

What business do you own?

I'd like to know, so I can steer clear of it with my wallet.

See, Eric, talking to people is a good thing, but it only gets you so far. Some people are just rabid.

And guest... you're a perfect illustration of the lie that sit/lie is about civility. It's not about civility, as you clearly demonstrate with your foul language and disdain for basic human rights.

Whatever your business is, we don't need it in our neighborhoods.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

All city benches have been removed from downtown. Am I the only one who's noticed? There used to be benches all the way up market street, and up Powell. They just quietly disappeared. Now, you can't even sit for a few minutes and enjoy a sandwich or rest your feet. Are we going to bust tourists for sitting on the curb?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

People mentioning their opposition to sit-lie to the store owners can't hurt, but any business can take a sign down and still vote for it. They're just being more covert about it so they don't lose anyone's business. Since sit-lie was proposed, I have read so many comments about it and I don't remember reading any comment where someone's mind has been changed on it. Why would a store owner be any different?

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

The Civil Sidewalks folks have been telling a very rosy picture of Sit/Lie to the merchants. Once informed of the side-effects the law would create (and re-iterating that SITTING would actually be the crime, nothing else), they've been fairly surprised and will take the sign down.

Or they say "Yeah, I know". Then you can start the boycott.

Posted by modelenoir on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

How about a simple " I Support Civility"

Print up 836,000 copies and distribute immediately
Spread the word. Do the work. Become a citizen.

Posted by Joe Citizen, San Francisco on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

Sit-lie has nothing to do with "civility." Sit-lie is about removing the homeless and street people from the sidewalks and getting them out of sight so that the wealthy people don't have to see them. There are many ways of being a good citizen. Who's going to pay for the 836,000 fliers and who's going to distribute them? I wouldn't use that "civility" word on the fliers because sit-lie is not about that. You can do what you suggested. Good luck. I find it interesting that the proponents of sit-lie have to use lies and deception. There is no truth in their campaign. One example is that they claim that some of the sit-lie supporters are members of the ACLU. That may be true, but what they don't say is that the ACLU opposes sit-lie.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 09, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

@ Barbara,
You obviously missed the point.
How about a simple " I Support Civility" . This has nothing to do with ' sit-lie' .
This is a suggestion for your individual choice. How about you pay for your own
sign and I'll pay for mine. Have the guts. Start a movement.
Civility has been around for a few thousand years. In San Francisco, however, we seem to have lost this behavior in favor of smug self-importance.
Spread the word. Do the work. Become a citizen.

Josephine Citizen

Posted by Josephine Citizen on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

@ Barbara,
You obviously missed the point.
How about a simple " I Support Civility" . This has nothing to do with ' sit-lie' .
This is a suggestion for your individual choice. How about you pay for your own
sign and I'll pay for mine. Have the guts. Start a movement.
Civility has been around for a few thousand years. In San Francisco, however, we seem to have lost this behavior in favor of smug self-importance.
Spread the word. Do the work. Become a citizen.

Josephine Citizen

Posted by Josephine Citizen on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

I see that Arthur Evans has returned using the name Josephine Citizen. The posts from Josephine sound just like Arthur based on what he used to write in his posts (before I added Arthur to my comment filter). Arthur wrote "Spread the word. Do the work. Become a citizen." I am spreading the word, doing the work and I am a's just that I'm against Arthur and sit-lie. The homeless problem today is a direct result of policies of both the Democratic and Republican Religions. Both are responsible. The proponents of sit-lie say "make no mistake, sit-lie is not about the homeless." Then that means that's exactly what sit-lie is about. I've asked this question many times....where is one going to put the homeless? Or does one want to use dispersants on them to sink them to the bottom of the ocean? Considering many of the revolting anti-homeless and anti-street people comments I've read on the Chronicle's website forum, that is what many people would choose to do with the homeless and street people. Also, again, BOYCOTT any business that has a "civil sidewalks" sign on their premises. One can still talk with the business owner if one wishes and he/she may remove their sign, and still vote for it. Please let me continue to spread the word about who's funding sit-lie so that people know who's behind the lies and deceptions...

Pacific Heights Moguls Fund Sit/Lie
High-tech financiers, not Haight Street merchants, are bankrolling Prop. L

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

Hello Barbara Chelsai,
We do not know of an Arthur Evans. We are a couple living in the Southeast portion of San Francisco who recognize that we are individually and collectively responsible for our actions, both postive and negative. The purpose of our suggestion to you that 'Civility' is key and is as simple as that. We are not linked to any group or fund as you suggest. The comment following yours is closer to our thinkig on this: have some compassion, be responsible, stop tolerating this 'anything goes' attitude and show a little 'grown-up' behavior.
Civility. It's what works in 'progressive' societies. San Francisco seems to be the exception: regressive, negative, intolerant,self-absorbed. Help us to understand what you are fighting for or against. Your arguments are not clear to us.

Joe and Josephine Citizen

Posted by Joe and Josephine on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

This Bay Guardian forum is never boring, I will say that.
I can see both sides of this argument, having my own youthful rebel roots, tempered by age and financial realities (Karl Marx does not pay my rent). I particularly empathise with the rant of the "guest", who spoke strongly about the pressures that small business is under in this city. While I am not an employer and I am by no means wealthy, as I read the article by Lewis Lapham, I am surprised how much he seems to extol the tender "virtues" of communism. While capitalism is hardly a warm and tender thing in its' raw state and there are many poor who are oppressed by it, I would think living in a communist state would hardly be warm and fuzzy either, especially if you want to lie on the sidewalks. The thing about San Francisco, my home of many years, is that it seems to not be able to consider any compromise. That is why I get so frustrated with social change in this place. It seems either black or white, with no narrow ledge in the middle. I am not speaking of being a moderate (I am conservative). I just think all this slinging of mud at people because perhaps they do not enjoy having to step over prone bodies strewn about on the sidewalks, is a bit over the top. I do not believe anyone is trying to rip the free-form guts out of San Francisco. How many of those complaining about the possibility of passage of sit-lie, actually run businesses that have a payroll and have to cover all kinds of demands of the government, both fed.-state-and city, much less make enough profit to keep their doors open? This does not mean they are "pacific heights" types, it may just mean their customers may find it unpleasant to have to step over people sitting or lying near a store's doorway. I seldom visit upper Haight St, so I do not know the current state of sidewalk affairs, but on Polk, it is somewhat the same. This town does not always seem to be grounded in real life....Hey, I live paycheck to paycheck like many of you, but I do not blame one class of people. There is always a way up and out, if you put your most excellent brain to it. This is the land of microentrepreneurs and I am one of them. Yes, times are tough, but I keep on and I intend to keep on and I don't blame those who have wealth. Perhaps they just work harder than I have the energy to work. If you want out of poverty, begin like I am doing, in the mind-set and use your good hands-heart-brain. I am making progress and I have no time to sit on the sidewalk, with all due respect.

Posted by Miss W on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

Miss W (also known as Arthur Evans) posted this......>>>There is always a way up and out, if you put your most excellent brain to it.... If you want out of poverty, begin like I am doing, in the mind-set and use your good hands-heart-brain. I am making progress and I have no time to sit on the sidewalk, with all due respect.<<<

You wrote that San Francisco does not always seem to be grounded in real life. I sense that about you from your comments. Please allow me to explain. Some people are unable to do as you're doing. Some homeless and street people are mentally ill, they eat many or all "meals" out of a garbage can. They eat rotted food which can make them sick. Some drink alcohol (that they may have found in the garbage can) to dull their various pains including emotional pain. Therefore, their "good hands-heart-brain" are not functioning. Perhaps you should make time to sit on the sidewalk and reflect on other people's situations in life because everyone is not like you or in your situation.

Arthur, all the different screen names you're using (Josephine and Joe Citizen, Miss W) still hasn't answered the question which is where are you going to push the homeless and street people to? What kind of "civility" do you plan for them? Details please. A home possibly? Possibly some medical and mental health care? Some food to eat? What kind of "civility" do you have planned for them? Please adhere to the subject matter which is the homeless and street people. This has nothing to do with "civility." The people I come in contact with throughout my day in this City are quite "civil" and just throwing around a code word such as "civil" doesn't explain at all what you and the supporters of Prop L plan to do with the homeless. In addition, where are you going to get the money?

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

Good call Barbara!! I noticed the similarities myself.

Yeah what do they plan to do with the homeless?

They never answer the question.

Come on Arthur, do the civil thing and tell us what are you going to do with the homeless?

Like Barbara said, details pls and not all this civil crap you're throwing out under multiple handles. What Arthur is doing is called spin.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 10, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

>>>Yeah what do they plan to do with the homeless? They never answer the question. <<<......................Correct, the supporters of Prop L never answer that question and I don't think they will because according to them sit-lie is not about the homeless, which is a big lie. It's deceit. The supporters also don't answer how Prop L will be paid for. I wrote in another post that there was a meeting in the Haight-Ashbury recently and both merchants and residents balked at having to pay any additional funds for streets services. The supporters want Prop L but they are not willing to pay for it and according to another city in CA that has sit-lie (but it's not a city-wide law, it's mainly in their downtown area) what "success" they have had has taken a "Herculean effort" (their words) including lots of money for it. If one can go on what the Haight-Ashbury merchants and residents said at that recent meeting, San Francisco is not willing to fund sit-lie, so why vote for it? I think we can use our valuable tax money for something else other than putting homeless people and street people in jails. Please permanently BOYCOTT any business that has a "We Support Civil Sidewalks, Yes on L. No on M." sign in their window.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

a : civilized conduct; especially : courtesy, politeness
b : a polite act or expression

Your response indicates that you have little actual connection to the homeless or mental illness issues as connected to your own, safe and comfortable life. 'What will THEY do?"... The point is, what will YOU do? Do you volunteer anywhere?
Do you show compassion to a troubled person on the street? Do you work in public health? Do you at least donate money to organizations that help the mentally ill or homeless? Do you write or pursue policy that can help the larger society in an attempt to 'solve' or alleviate this suffering? I suspect that you do, so my reaction should be taken from a broader perspective. If we sit back and let THEM solve it, nothing gets done. And we have the problems that we all witness in San Francisco. I would also suggest that we not simply link the mentally ill and/ or homeless with the petulant and spoiled. We have an mix of 'street people' in San Francisco. Some have little or no ability to control their abberant behavior and should be assisted. Others can be petulant and spoiled little bully children in the bodies of adults. Surprise a toothless and obviously pained and dirty woman or man on the street with a $20 bill and a smile and a wish that they have a good meal today. It does wonders. Do it weekly. You can afford it. Compassion. Civility.

Joe and Josephine Citizen

ps we would be happy to meet you to prove that we are not someone named arthur evans.

Posted by Joe and Josephine on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 7:44 am

That is what "civil sidewalks" is all about.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 8:58 am

@guest: perhaps such an activity could force some civility into your narrow headwidth which contains that small thinking organ of yours. your comment is typical of the angry, non-civil, childish, 'it's all about me' behavior that characterizes much of this city's quasi-progressive population. grow up.

Posted by CIVILITY squared on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

Because arresting people for sitting on a sidewalk is the height of civility.
Polite Policemen politely arresting people and politely taking them off to jail, so you are free to walk the city in white gloves, your sensibilities unassailed by anything or anyone not deemed "civil" by you.
What a lovely dream you have dreamed for all of us.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

Barbara, I read this forum and I am familiar with Arthur Evans. I am not Arthur(my friends call me "Miss Wendy") and also with all due respect, I have lived in this city for almost 30 years and I assure you, I am very well grounded in reality. I am on the front lines all over with my property management work. I have given money to various homeless people all through my years here in San Francisco. I live downtown near Polk St and California and I treat all people with kindness and compassion. I am quite aware of the miserable condition of many people on the street and I do not have any long-term solution to it, but I do not think any of you do either. You could throw any amount of money at poverty, with government programs or whatever, but from my own experience with financial lack, it absolutely begins in the spirit. I do not know what has brought many people to the streets of SF but I certainly understand various calamities are likely. I hardly live in a Pacific Heights mansion. San Francisco seems to play the class warfare quite well, as if all people with money are evil beasts, and all poor people by virtue of their poverty, are somehow more righteous. That is not always true! Over the years in my property management work, I have dealt with a good number of very compassionate people with money. They might not trumpet their good works on the street corner, but they do lend some of their funds to help those less-fortunate.
I spoke in my first post about the difficult realities of capitalism and I know how tough they are. I am not even middle class and surviving in this town is very rough. I do not support "robber barons" or selfishness, and to some degree, there are plenty of selfish people out there who are not wealthy. I am not Mother Teresa and I admit I often am mired in basic survival and find it tough to reach out to someone else. I just believe, based on my nearly 60 years of life on this earth, that within reason, there is only so much everyone else can do to help you if you refuse to do something for yourself. Yes absolutely, help those with mental illness, help those with substance abuse, in whatever manner can be provided. I believe there are ongoing outreach programs that attempt to do just that, like the "homeless outreach" van, and other things I am not familiar with. I agree with Joe and Josephine, that perhaps some of you on this forum are involved with that kind of work and I sincerely thank you for it. I am acquainted with the fine gentleman who runs the homeless church and tirelessly does food and encouragment outreach every day in downtown. I also do not think it is unreasonable to ask at least some people to participate to some degree in their own assistance. If everything on earth is handed to you by the effort and work of someone else, I do not think that helps completely in the long run. Yes,I have had people help me at tough times in the past, and I was profoundly grateful. But I also made an effort as I could, to pick myself back up from an emotional heap and begin to help someone else, to keep the rounds going. I also pray, a lot, for myself and my household, and for those in need. If each one of you on this forum chose one homeless person to help on a regular basis, then homelessness in its' very face might begin to change. Offer them a meal, pay for them to have a week in a residential hotel, or perhaps ask them back to your home to sleep on your couch for a night or two?? How many of you have done that? I have not brought a homeless person home to my couch, but I have indeed on multiple occasions in my 30 years here, given food, a bag of supplies like toiletries, etc, and a meal and a kind word of encouragement, to a person sitting miserably on the street. I see them as a human being, not a thing, and I will continue to help with what limited resources I have. That is one immediate solution, if only short term. It is a front-line heart change. Thanks also to Joe and Josephine Citizen for their take on this, which echoes some of what I am saying about individual involvement in helping someone struggling on the street of SF.

Posted by Miss W on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 10:57 am

A well-known troll who regularly changes his name from male-to-female and then back again and who's recognizable for his stories which usually begin with him strolling down (insert well-known street here) when he saw (insert object of his discussion) doing (whatever behavior Sam/Barbara is cheerleading today) and it made him think (insert deep thought by Sam/Barbara here). This is then usually followed by a meandering line of thought connecting whatever random event Sam/Barbara witnessed with whatever political event is going on in the city at the same time. Follow this with a ringing endorsement of extremist political thought and a denunciation of the Democratic party and you've got Sam/Barbara-thought down.

Rinse and repeat.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:12 pm

For the record, I have not made any prior posts in this thread. This is the first one.

Bárbara Chelsai commonly tries to derail threads by going off on ad hominem tangents. She has no regard for reality. She just pulls personal allegations out of the air and puts them forward as facts. The topic of the thread gets lost in the process, which is her goal.

This behavior, unfortunately, has become a common feature of doctrinaire progressivism in SF. It's a form of anti-intellectualism.

The alternative to doctrinaire progressivism is intelligent progressivism. It focuses on the issues. It relies on sound reasoning and facts in order to make its points. It welcomes intellectual diversity.

Progressivism in SF was once the intelligent kind, but it has become the doctrinaire kind in recent years. This change corresponds to the decline of SF progressivism from a popular movement into a dogmatic sect.

Let's make SF progressivism safe, once again, for intelligence!

The world has enough sects as it is.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

Arthur, there is nothing progressive about using the police to enforce your vision of civility. That's a regressive, right-wing policy, with some truly scary implications, as the angry "Idiots" commenter earlier illustrates. Arthur, it's also not very civil or progressive of you to spray down the sidewalks outside your apartment at Haight and Ashbury everyday. It's a waste of water and it seems to indicate that you view those who enjoy street life as some kind of vermin whose traces need to be washed away everyday. You've chosen to live at an iconic intersection long known for having crazy street characters and vibrant street life of the sort that Jane Jacobs celebrates in her work. What gives you the right to try to just wash away an aspect of city living that many of us appreciate? And how will you react when someone tries to outlaw your preferred form of sidewalk incivility: your near-pathological habit of spraying down the sidewalks?

Posted by steven on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

I wasn't aware that Arthur Evans was spraying down the sidewalks! What's next?! What a waste of water. Thank you for that information. It very useful to see the true nature and intent of these supporters.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

You're concerned with him spraying down the sidewalk?

Posted by matlock on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

To Arthur Evans and the multiple screen names he's using. Again, the question still remains unanswered. What are you going to do with the homeless and street people which this revolting sit-lie law is intended to target? Attacking me does not answer the question. It's a very simple and elementary question, Arthur Evans. I'm not the person pushing for this draconian law, Arthur Evans. You are. Therefore, please stick to the topic which is sit-lie, not Bárbara Chelsai. I'm not on the ballot.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

From what I can tell it looks like Arthur and Barbara are the only 2 on this thread lately other than myself. But my name is Arthur also.

Arthur why can't you just answer the question??? You're the one pushing for the law. Let us know what your "civility" is for the homeless.

Last night I asked for details and I got none. Today you've gone off on Barbara again as usual and her volunteerism which is not what the topic is. The topic is prop L.

What are the people who are for prop L planning to do with the homeless?

Hey Arthur, let me clarify the question for you: what is going to happen to the street people of SF under prop L?

Permanent jail for being homeless and poor? Can you stay on the subject this time pls.

I am Arthur but not Evans.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

The process around this went from getting the cops to do something about the traveling hobo's on Haight St. to being about "the homeless?"

Oddly the cities progressives have been for "enforcing laws already on the books." So if it is the case that "we should enforce laws already on the books," and those so-called progressives like Mirkirimi and David Campos are not bullshitting us, then you should ask them what they plan on doing too... and when they plan on doing it.

I'm sure the first question at a mayor meet the supes will be David Campos asking when he will start enforcing laws on the books.

Because if they start to enforce some of these laws that supposedly progressives like, those 'laws already on the books" then you are in for a real downer man.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

Where did everyone go?

I came back to check out what the supporters of prop L plan to do with the homeless under prop L and looks like they all left. They all left at the same time without answering the question.

What does that tell you?

Every time this question gets asked what do we hear? The sound of nothing.

This is a political tactic called running out the clock. You say nothing about the parts of your plan which don't work and you hope that the general public don't catch on and most won't.

I think the question needs to be asked again.

Arthur Evans, what do you and the supporters of prop L propose to do with the homeless? Where is the money coming from? Is it now illegal to be poor and homeless in SF if this passes?

Arthur, why don't you get a date and stop thinking about Barbara so much? Or why don't you just ask her out for a date and get it over with.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

Ok, for the final time, I am not Arthur. There are more than two people on this thread.
I did not come up with Prop. L, did not write it, create it, suggest it, legislate it.I will not even vote for it (but also will not vote for prop M), as I believe there are already provisions on the books to deal with situations such as this attempts to address, and this is a duplicate. The homeless situation in SF has grown steadily worse for decades now. I have lived downtown SF for heading for 30 years and have observed this front line. I do not have any ideas that have not already been floated multiple times, but here are some suggestions, even if I have no idea how they would be funded, managed, handled:
Offer basic jobs to homeless folks to assist with keeping streets clean and parks maintained, maintaining and repairing basic single room occupancy housing, helping with clean up after events in public arenas, helping with animal shelter care, assisting at rest homes for elderly people. There must be all kinds of situations in SF that could use help at a basic level and from there, help those who wanted to go up and out from that point. I am not in government, legislation, city management, or social work, so I do not know how all this could work. As I offered in previous threads, I do what I can for individuals I meet on the streets.
I have often despaired of any realisitic solutions and I am sincerely trying to do what I can in my small individual life. All the propositions and/or jail time for the homeless do not address the underlying factor of high cost of living and mental or substance abuse problems. Those take money and lots of it. Are all of you prepared to have your taxes raised to cover all this social work and to monitor it?
Ok, now what do you suggest, from your lofty and erudite perches?

Posted by Wendy (Miss) on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

Why are the supporters of sit-lie being so covert about it? I'm talking about the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro (MUMC) again. That organization is for sit-lie according to the supporters website, but MUMC members are being very covert about their support. Why? The supporters claim this law is about "civility." Why would an organization of merchants be covert about "civility?" Most of the MUMC members are not displaying "We Support Civil Sidewalks. Yes on L. No on M." signs. In recent weeks, I've seen four businesses in The Castro with those signs. I'm not sure if they are MUMC members. Two of those four businesses have since removed their signs recently but then when one goes on MUMC's website and sees all of the businesses which belong to MUMC, one quickly understands that most merchants do not have a sign supporting sit-lie. Why is that? If this law is such a good idea why so much covertness and deception about it?

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

On the topic of Arthur Evans spraying down the sidewalk that Steven wrote about, if I'm not mistaken I see Arthur Evans on occasion waiting for the 33 at 18th and Castro across from Harvey's Bar and Restaurant. The other night I saw Arthur (or who I think is Arthur Evans...he wears a brown jacket, has a moustache) sitting on a seat in the Muni bus shelter on 18th outside of Walgreens. Did Arthur spray down that bus shelter seat before sitting on it? That seat is rather likely to have had a homeless person or street person sit on it considering that's one of the favorite places for the homeless and street people to hang out, which I have no problem with at all. Also, what about that seat in the bus? Does he spray that seat down too before sitting?...or does he stand?

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

In the current issue of City Journal, published in New York City, Heather MacDonald has written a detailed and devastating expose of Homelessness Inc's opposition to Prop L, the civil-sidewalks law, or sit-lie law, that San Franciscans will vote on in November.

A short summary of her article appeared earlier in The Wall Street Journal.

Here's the whole expose:

Posted by Arthur Evans on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

And now Arthur is citing caustic opinion pieces from a right-wing think tank as if it's a "devastating expose." Hilarious. You should really do your research first, Arthur, otherwise you just out yourself as a cranky conservative.

Posted by steven on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

Its written like any Guardian "expose," it might be overdone some, but you "write" for the Guardian.

It also shows many of the laughable arguments of the cities entitled Guardianbots.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 9:38 am

Here's a very thorough examination of the Sit Lie Law from a Resident and Business Owner from the Haight.
That is to say, an article NOT written by someone who is being paid by a conservative lobbying group.

Posted by NotSam on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

So Arthur Evans has still not answered the question....What are you going to do with the homeless and street people which this revolting sit-lie law is intended to target? Instead he gives a link to Heather MacDonald's article. What Arthur didn't say is Ms MacDonald is from the right-wing Manhattan Institute (for Policy Research), a conservative, market-oriented think tank. In a previous post from Miss W, she (Arthur) wrote >>>I am not speaking of being a moderate (I am conservative).<<< I think most people on here knew that Arthur Evans is a conservative.

Again, the subject is....where are you going to put the homeless and street people, Arthur Evans? This question is not going away. This question will remain until the election.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

Why do you keep posting under different names and then accusing others of doing the same thing?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

Let's analyze this. I'm really Sam-Not. Hope you don't mind me answering your question. Concerned with different screen names? How about these:

Lucreatia Snapples
Lucreatia Trollop

I think these may be connected with Arthur what's his name and glen matlock who is now matlock. Sometimes he's matlc or something like that. Then there's Sam who is Sam-Not and not Sam. How many more screen names do you have Lucreatia? That list of three is a good start. All one person. Don't ya just love hypocrites? LOL.

Maybe tomorrow I can be mottlucreatia.

Back to topic. I also support Barbara's boycott idea. Shouldn't you?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

I don't support Sam/Barbara's boycott.

I've always been Luctretia Snapples but I took on the moniker "Lucretia the Trollop" after Sam called me with that witty phrase.

LucretiaMott has very different opinions than my own I think you'll see. There's no way she and I are the same.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

har, thanks for the laugh

As Lucretia Snapples on June 7, 2010 at 8:33 pm to be exact you wrote to a Sam "I've used "Lucretia Snapples" and "Lucretia the Trollop" interchangeably for over three years now."

A search shows that Sam did not appear on this site until this year.

Try again. You should at least try to keep your story straight.

thanks for the laugh.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 13, 2010 @ 11:05 am

Dear God, why don't I learn not to jump into these endless tangles of political discussions on the Bay Guardian online??? It is like herding cats, to even get a listen or a fair corner. Barbara, you are obviously not going to be convinced that I am not conspiring with Arthur or that we are not somehow sharing a brain or body, so I will let you have your (incorrect) thoughts on that. I actually did offer some suggestions for helping homeless folks in my thread above that speaks of "here are some ideas". I guess you did not read that, or if you did, it was not sufficient enough for you. Should I have written it in triplicate and emailed it to the Department of Social Services? I have not read any suggestions from all of you liberal folks,on what to do to help the homeless....This town has become more and more insufferable, to the tune of I am "more progressive than you", "gayer than you", and "more politically correct than you". Hey, I have some small experience with that from my youth, as I was a liberal back then. No more, I am a conservative and I have just as much right to speak as all of you. Believe it or not, I think we all want the best for this city: we want people to not be stuck on a filthy sidewalk asking for change, we want affordable housing, we want the opportunity to work, we want health care options. We just disagree on what is the best way to manifest this.I am not a Republican, I am an Independent. Well, no matter, seems like few will brook the dreaded conservative to speak on here,so alas, I am departing. Thank God we have freedom to speak, freedom to vote, and freedom to assemble, as well as many other precious rights. Barbara, I wish you well, you are obviously as passionate about things from your point of view as I am from mine. We just disagree. Signed, Wendy Wendy Wendy (did I say Wendy???)

Posted by Miss Wendy on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

The rights that you spoke of in your last 5 sentences are guaranteed in our Constitution, not from a religious being. Our freedom of speech is limited even on the Internet. Some sites will delete comments and kick one off and even ban one if they don't like what one says (it can be just one word they don't like and off you go). Our freedom to assembly is limited in that one usually has to get a permit from the city (a city) in order to assemble these days. There have been "protest pins" (areas designated for protesters) at the last Democratic and Republican conventions and those protest pins have been blocks away from the convention so that those attending the convention would not see the protesters. That's very conservative. Students have been kicked out of schools for wearing political tee shirts these days. I could list other examples of how the rights you say we have are being eroded by conservatives especially. You and others have let our true freedoms under the Constitution slip away by not paying attention (your post tells me you haven't been paying attention which is why I've felt the need to respond to your post) and continuing to vote for the same old, same old and expecting something to change in a positive direction.

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

God is the bringer of ALL good things, Barbara.
Every single person on EARTH bears a part of the blame for the incredible mess in which we find ourselves on this beautiful place called Earth in 2010.
To quote a woman who survived a saline abortion procedure in her mother's womb at 7 months of age, "It is the mercy of God who sustains us, even when we hate Him."

Nighty all,
Miss Wendy

Posted by Miss Wendy on Oct. 11, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

One might find this link helpful for information and education. It's a link to the Progressive magazine's McCarthy Watch. Here's a snippet from their website >>>McCarthyism Watch is Progressive Editor Matthew Rothschild's running tally of civil liberties infringements. "The New McCarthyism" ran as the cover story of The Progressive in January 2002 and Rothschild's book, You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression was published in 2007. One recent story has to do with "Judge Jails Lawyer for Failing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance," By Matthew Rothschild, October 8, 2010<<<......The Age of Repression is what sit-lie is about.

Progressive magazine's McCarthy Watch...

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 12:56 am

prop H? The cities attempt to ban hand guns?

Campus leftist speech codes in there anywhere Sam?

Posted by matlock on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 9:41 am

Did you have the right to have all your letters to the editor printed at one time?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Were you kicked off political web pages ran by some part of the government?

Our rights and freedoms are hardly safe with the Guardianbots.

Posted by matlocl on Oct. 12, 2010 @ 1:03 am